AWN Calls for Zealous Prosecution in the Attempted Murder of Issy Stapleton

Earlier this week, an autistic teenager in Michigan survived a murder attempt committed by her mother, who is now facing criminal charges. The Autism Women's Network is deeply saddened and profoundly concerned at yet another situation in which a disabled person has been targeted for violence by a family member. Our work seeks to challenge the dominant narrative of disability as defect, deficiency, and disorder, because this narrative paints a disabled person's life as a tragedy and a burden. This is precisely the kind of attitude that leads to justifications for violence against disabled people, when policymakers and the media alike encourage the public to sympathize with the aggressors rather than the victims.

There is no excuse for murder or any other form of violence directed against disabled people. Lack of adequate supports and services does not lead to murder. The attitude that disabled life is lesser or of less value does. This year alone, we have come to learn of numerous cases in which disabled people were murdered by people who should have been supportive and loving. In each of these cases, the rhetoric of excuses and justifications for the murderers has dominated public discourse about the lives of people with disabilities.

We urge law enforcement and prosecutorial offices to commit to thorough investigation and zealous prosecution of these acts of violence as hate crimes. Until our legal system begins to recognize that these crimes are connected by the same attitude of hatred for people with disabilities, those who commit them will continue to be able to do so with impunity. The work of the Autism Women's Network is predicated on developing communities more responsive to the needs of autistic women and more inclusive and accessible to all people with disabilities. Our goals of equal access and opportunity will never be achieved for as long as the law treats violence against disabled people as excusable or acceptable.
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